Volume 4 Fall '08

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First Day of the New Era

Anthony Russell White

I do not remember choosing.

I remember that we were prisoners

of war, but the war was over at last.

We were at a processing center

and those holding us had decided

that our group could not

be returned. We

had to disappear.

I remember going to the counter

and bringing back to our group

two stacks of small paper slips. One,

a thick stack, was inquiries about us

from family, Red Cross, others,

with correct names and tid-bits

of information to identify us:

"Do you have ...., who once lived at ....

had surgical scars on the left knee,

and long black moustaches."

The other stack was much smaller,

one thin blank form to be filled out by each of us.

I remember that it was understood

that no correct information

was to be filled in on any of those slips.

So that no matches would be made with the many inquiries.

We would disappear.

I remember coming up to David and putting

the two unequal stacks on a table

where he sat, and saying, "This

is where it happens, this

is the point of choice."

Although filling out these slips with false

information was voluntary, we knew

if we did not comply, it would be a quick death

in the adjoining room, probably with a shovel

to the back of the neck.

Otherwise, if we cooperated,

we would be taken away,

to live, perhaps, in isolation,

or volunteered for medical experiments.

I remember thinking desperately

of ways to hide those slips with our real

identities, any of them—all if possible—

in our mouths, in books,

in the building itself, to say "I was here."

So that someday they might be found

by some searcher who was never satisfied with

"Never Located.”

Anthony Russell White was awarded
the 2008 Burning Bush Poetry Prize
for "The First Day of the New Era"

Anthony Russell White
lives on a mountaintop in San Rafael, CA, and serves on the permanent staff of the Nine Gates Mystery School. A poetic high point for him was a visit to the tomb of Jelaluddin Rumi at Konya, Turkey; White is still awed by Rumi's poetry.

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